It's official. Glendale has arrived. It now has a supper club on par with steakhouses in San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas. It's no surprise because Michael Mina, head of the Mina Group of restaurants and the force behind Bourbon Steak Los Angeles, has 20 other concept restaurants in cities like San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas.
The Vegas vibe looms large here and I mean that in the best way possible. The space was created from scratch by in-demand design team AvroKO, evoking a first-class lounge feel. In an homage to Glendale's aviation legacy (L.A.'s first commercial airport was built here in the '20s), the atmosphere hints at the Golden Age of air travel. Vintage globes and passports are obvious touches but details like luggage-strap room dividers and landing strip table-striping somehow conjure the days of elegant upper-crust living.
Every member of the wait staff is like a personal concierge. Waitresses wear pretty black dresses and jewels. Sommeliers pair wines with each course. Sharply dressed bartenders take their time making proper vintage cocktails including hard-to-find flips, fizzes and slings. The service is impeccable almost to the point of absurdity — diners choose the color of their linen napkins — but for a special evening out, it is a thrill to experience how the other half lives.
Take, for instance, the Japanese whiskey ceremony. A custom cart looking like it just rolled off Howard Hughes' finest aircraft arrives tableside with a flight of three fine whiskeys. A strawberry is singed with fire then snuffed out in an overturned glass, capturing the berry's essence before pouring in the spirit. The other sips might have essence of coffee or herb, whatever complements the chosen spirit, served with a cube of ice made with imported Japanese water.
In the beautiful bar section, one can relax at small tables in low-profile chairs and listen to piano jazz. We were fortunate to hear a trio visiting from Manhattan's upper east side recently, but other talented musicians are slated to play in the coming weeks. Music starts at 8 p.m. on weekends and other designated nights.
You may have noticed I've spoken about the impeccable service, the beautiful space, the fine cocktails and the music. What about the food? Here, things go a little south for me. I think I just don't get the Michael Mina aesthetic.
It's true, the complementary duck-fat fries with three seasonings are tasty but how could they not be? The fresh oysters with champagne mignonette were tantalizing as well. However, as excited as I was to try Michael's Tuna Tartare tossed tableside with Asian pear, pine nuts and Scotch bonnet chilies, my shoulders slumped in disappointment when I tasted it. I did finish it, though, which is more than I can say about my steak. Thrilled at the thought of a fine cut of Prime Rib Eye American Wagyu poached in herb butter before being fire grilled, I was devastated at an overcooked square of dull muscle.
My husband's undercooked steak leftovers sat in the fridge all week, uneaten. I've got to repeat his line about the deep-fried Duck Spring Rolls and Lobster Corn Dogs. "They were fair. County Fair." The side of Asparagus with 7 Treasures was delicious though. One of our dining mates ordered the Maine Lobster Pot Pie, a giant pillow of crust encasing chunks of brandied lobster meat and seasonal vegetables. She loved it.
Truth is I would not come to Bourbon Steak for an exquisite dinner. It lacks vibrancy, complexity and tooth. But I would bring special guests to this refined environment for oysters on the half shell, fine wine and accomplished jazz.
LISA DUPUY has reviewed area restaurants since 2008. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.
What: Bourbon Steak Los Angeles
Where: 237 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale in The Americana at Brand
When: Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Prices: Starters and shellfish $12 to $29-plus; entrees $26 to $54-plus; sides, $9
Contact: (818) 839-4130; reservations recommended